Strange input and strange peripherals: Corded cassettes recreate Engelbert’s vision

Douglas Engelbert’s 1968 “Mother of All Demos” introduces the world to a whole new technology that we recognize today, the most notable being his great invention, the computer mouse. However, MOAD also features things like cut-and-paste text editing, a point-and-click interface, video conferencing, and even online collaboration. From Google Docs. An invention has been shown that for some reason could not stand the test of time. Corded keyboard: An input device where five keys can be pressed simultaneously in different combinations, similarly you can play the chord on the piano.

A 3D-printed five-key corded keyboard
The Engelbart cassette comes with both USB host and USB client ports

Although there have been several attempts over the years to bring new life to the “cord”, it has failed to gain mainstream appeal and remains a curiosity today. That makes it a natural fit for Strange input and strange peripheral Competition, as we can see [Russ Nelson]The submission is called the Engelbert Cassette, which aims to create a modern 3D printed cord that serves Engelbert’s purpose.

It is important to note that the corded keyboard does not mean just an extra set of five keys. Instead, Engelbert showed a clever interplay between the cord and the mouse: a complete 8-bit input device could be created by combining the five keys under his left hand and the three mouse buttons on his right. [Russ]Its device has a USB host interface for connecting a USB mouse as well as a USB client interface that presents itself as a combination mouse / keyboard device on the PC.

The brain of the device is made up of a Teensy 4.1, which reads the codes transmitted by the mouse as well as the top five keys. If one or more keys are pressed together with the mouse button, a keyboard code related to Mapping Engelbert’s original keycode is generated. We wonder how practical this whole setup will be in real life; Looks like something you have to try to figure out. Fortunately, all the schematics, code and STL files are available on the project page, so with a little effort you can set up your own MOAD on your desk today.

We’ve featured a few corded keyboards on these pages; Spring like Pico Cord, Cordy and BAT mind. If you’re looking for an overview of Engelbert’s stunning presentation, check out our part in the Mother of All demo 50 years later.

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